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Openings and closings (2004–2005)


jamiemaw
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In Memory of Pho Bich

This is a little snapshot I wrote a while back about the now defunct Pho.

We walk down to Kingsway from Value Village at 48th and Victoria. It's sunny and you're hungry so we stop at Pho Bich Nga where we sit in burgundy naugahyde seats resonating in my memory with 70's pizza joints and Greek restaurants in prairie towns. Faded posters of Asian beauties hang on the wall along with stark photos of the meals shot against black backgrounds with corresponding menu numbers. There is a faint musty smell in the air, fake yellow silk flowers tumble from a vase on a shelf behind the arborite counter. I gather this is a recycled diner. A group of teenage boys comes in followed by a group of corresponding teenage girls.

We place our spoils on the table and evaluate: a plastic jar of Lego, a Batman book, and a bag o' toys containing a Power Ranger which gets bonus points because her head spins when you squeeze her legs together. We drink ice water out of chunky plastic tumblers and share a bowl of Vietnamese rolls on rice vermicelli. I divvy up a portion for Ullie with shredded pickled carrot, bean spouts, noodles, and lettuce. I tear the hot, flaky rolls apart and blow on them before putting them in his bowl. He picks off the "black stuff," flicks away pieces of green onion and gobbles it down like a greedy baby bird, noodles hanging from the edges of his mouth. I know just how he feels as I accumulate my own pile of bunched-up greasy paper napkins. The meal is cheap and good. There are no fresh mint or Thai basil leaves, but the bill is under six dollars.

Ullie tosses the Power Ranger at me in a squall of anger, which leaves as quickly as it blew in. " Can you read me this book mom?" I celebrate the sound of my chopsticks against the bottom of my porcelain bowl. Long spoons clink and tinkle as old Vietnamese men stir their iced coffee. "Can you read me this book, mom? Can you read me this book?" Even the jackhammer outside becomes a welcome part of the funky Pho Bich Nga symphony.

May/04

Edited by Zucchini Mama (log)

"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted."

--Mae West

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It's the end of an era folks ... the end of that one establishment that added a small touch of "street" to our little hamlet ... a place we could proudly say had been adopted by gangsta's around the world ...

Phô Bich Nga is no more!

Drove by there today and a new sign is in place.  Still a phô place, but it's just not the same. :sad:

A.

It used to be "The Vicway" restaurant at one time. It was where alll the cops had coffee & sandwiches.

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Cafe Rio, down the street, has been taken over by the folks from Ethical Bean.

Oh good! Anytime I've been in Langley (all 4 of them in the last 5 years :raz: ) I've managed to grab a coffee at EB. Nice place ... pretty good coffee too.

A.

As far as i'm aware, the Ethical in Langley is not Ethical Bean but Ethical ________ (something else). Different people. They serve Level Ground product.

And not an opening or closing, but kinda. Salade des Fruits is closing as of tonight for a month and re-opening around August 5 with a new menu and new "grand chef".

Drew Johnson

bread & coffee

i didn't write that book, but i did pass 8th grade without stress. and i'm a FCAT for sure.

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Apparently there was a 3-alarm fire on the corner of Knight and Kingsway. According to the news report the produce shop and Vietnamese restaurant on the corner were involved. Not sure which corner, but something is closed.

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Not only is Pho Bich Nga gone from Kingsway/Victoria, but the Rubina Tandoori next door appears to have left also. I was pretty surprised at that. It is now called the Red Fort and, other than the name of the restaurant, the sign is virtually the same. Anyone know what happened?

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Langley's coffee bar is Ethical Addiction - Ethical Bean is the company that roasts the whole beans and provides them to fine coffee bars and retailers all over the province. Not as good as Kicking Horse Coffee but - Fair Trade & Organic - great none the less...

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And not an opening or closing, but kinda. Salade des Fruits is closing as of tonight for a month and re-opening around August 5 with a new menu and new "grand chef".

3WC, thanks for the clarification. The guys have a 2-month break every fall to return to France, but this sounds like they might be changing the guard a little. If they have a new "grand chef", is it still the same ownership? (As one of the owners was also the chef I believe.) Also, does a grand chef mean grander pricing?

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Not only is Pho Bich Nga gone from Kingsway/Victoria, but the Rubina Tandoori next door appears to have left also.  I was pretty surprised at that.  It is now called the Red Fort and, other than the name of the restaurant, the sign is virtually the same.  Anyone know what happened?

This post (click) should answer your question.

Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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Some information on the restaurant takeover of Random. The new place is called Lolita's, and is slated to be opening August 15. However, on my tipsy way back from the fireworks tonight I saw it opened with people sitting at the tables and martinis in their hands. Or was I seeing things....... probably not, but the restaurant seems to have retained most of the interior décor (but I should really have gone closer to be saying this) and I'm not sure if Random had a bar before.. but I think I saw a bar.. or did I. I'm puzzling myself, I'll check it out again some time.

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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In the space formerly occupied by Lesley Stowe Fine Foods, I saw a sign that read "quince... coming soon".

Who's got the dish on this?

Edited by Mooshmouse (log)

Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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new solly's opening soon on 7th and yukon. i'm sure this is old news by now, but i'm just excited that cinnamon buns are now just over the bridge!!

as for lolita's, revasser, they were opened on the weekend just serving drinks and tacos to introduce themselves to the locals. yes, i was told there is a bar now, and the wall to the kitchen has now been torn down for an open kitchen concept. that is all i can remember from what i was told....after a few too many drinks :rolleyes:

Quentina

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Wow, I managed to be correct :laugh: Lolita sounds good.. I think they need to lighten up the place a bit though. I've always thought that the space/room Random was in was particularly dim. It didn't have that attraction that pulls you into restaurant.. like Chambar does with a warm "feel" you can just see from the outside.

Does anyone also know when Nu is gonna be opening? I walked by today, and construction seems.. off? It didn't look like it was ready for an opening for.. tomorrow. The papers were still on the window, and it looked like construction was still being done.

Edited by rêvasser (log)

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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The guys have a 2-month break every fall to return to France, but this sounds like they might be changing the guard a little. If they have a new "grand chef", is it still the same ownership? (As one of the owners was also the chef I believe.) Also, does a grand chef mean grander pricing?

I have no information other than what's on the door.

these guys are my model business - i love that they take plenty of vacations.

Drew Johnson

bread & coffee

i didn't write that book, but i did pass 8th grade without stress. and i'm a FCAT for sure.

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Does anyone also know when Nu is gonna be opening? I walked by today, and construction seems.. off? It didn't look like it was ready for an opening for.. tomorrow. The papers were still on the window, and it looked like construction was still being done.

Just wondering out loud ... could the container-drivers strike be a culprit?

A.

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Well... not exactly openings or closings but as both places have been discussed in this topic then I figure it's the one for the update.

Unless of course we start a Gulf Islands thread....

In the meantime....

Salt Spring Island updates:

Moby's... bought by Seattle Yacht Club. My understanding is that they will run this as a members only pub and marina from now on.

Barb's Buns.... recently bought by someone... I know not whom... and now back up for sale you may need to scroll the page a bit. The current owners have re-named the restaurant part of the operation "The Glass Onion" and seem to have done some improvements. I will note however, that on this past Sunday of the long weekend, they were closed. The listing price is $349,000. No clue what might be fair but I'd definitely be curious to know what the previous (recent) purchase price was. Goodwill only survives for so long. And.... if my very brief conversations with a few locals is any indication.... then things, may, have lost a bit of their previous edge. Interesting that the owners wish to sell so soon after acquiring the business but then who knows what the circumstances may be.

Funny thing about the island on Sunday.... many businesses were closed. I found this very odd considering it was long weekend. Would have figured that it would have been a really good weekend for business considering most island restaurants survive and count on their May through October volume to sustain them throughout the entire year.

On another note.... a Salt Spring institution is also up for sale:

The Vesuvius Inn In case you have a cool 1.5 + mil hanging around, and a penchant for island life, this might be just the thing for you.

Edited by appreciator (log)

sarah

Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was. --Unknown

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I ran past a cool looking joint on the water today in the C area called Marmelade (sp?). Comments anyone?

Cafe Setto in the old Death by Chocolate is doing some amazing cocktails. Go and see the Aussie bloke at the bar for these beauties (plug for the home team).

What is it about passionate barmen in this city, first I came across an ex-pat at Chambar that was doing wonders, now another brother mixing it up in your fair city.

Is it a inbred passion for booze or are we all alcoholics at heart!

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I ran past a cool looking joint on the water today in the C area called Marmelade (sp?). Comments anyone?

There was a Globe article on it here and a thread on it here besides the items further up this very thread. Our fine-feathered pal Andrew wrote about them in a recent Westender I believe...

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I will note however, that on this past Sunday of the long weekend, they were closed...... 

Funny thing about the island on Sunday.... many businesses were closed.  I found this very odd considering it was long weekend.  Would have figured that it would have been a really good weekend for business considering most island restaurants survive and count on their May through October volume to sustain them throughout the entire year.

It's been my long time experience that many people who open businesses on the Gulf Islands have no idea the amount of work that goes with running a successful operation.

If a person is to survive they must have their nose-to-the-grindstone from May to October-as mentioned.Those who opt for the Island lifestyle-long lunches/naps/ganga soaked afternoons soon find themselves at the mercy of bankers and worse.

Locally-roaring by on the bicycle a few moments ago I see Café Marseilles is 'under paper'-windows are papered and the sign is gone.

Let's hope for a more warmer host and an atmosphere somewhat more welcoming.

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Our fine-feathered pal Andrew wrote about them in a recent Westender I believe...

A Shaky Start for Gorgeous Marmalade

By Andrew Morrison

If you’re like me, you might share my impulse to douse passing speed walkers on the seawall with the occasional martini. Thankfully, the folks at the new, Brit-centric Marmalade Kitchen and Bar have provided us with the perfect venue from which to commence operations in style. Not only can you easily pick off joggers with expertly flung olives (at $3 a bowl, this is awesome fun), but you can also blame the patrons next door at Fiddlehead Joe’s as you innocently scan the cocktail list for new ammunition.

But the 30 seat patio can only provide us with seasonal sport and is hardly a reflection of Marlamade‘s interior which, though small (57 seats), remains a modern stunner with chairs of steel and black leather surrounding tables topped with sand-blasted glass. London ex-pat owners Ash Sharifaie and sister Alaleh show their hands as capable aesthetes, appointing the room with fresh flowers of exotic types, excellent art, and swanky candle holders. Every sexy motif fits seamlessly to create an atmosphere suggesting the place has game. Rising up from the dark, hardwood floors is a knockout bar right out of the London lounge scene, and with the gentle thump of music radiating warmth, the hipness is palpable and the promise of insobriety surrounds all. Indeed, I saw great potential (despite the paper napkins). But ambience and cocktails, as they say, do not a restaurant make.

Upon opening the menu, my hopes for the place were sucker-punched. I saw another pedestrian selection of ho-hum dishes (again with the calamari, the wings, and the nachos!). Granted, there were a few interesting flourishes, but with no definable food concept nothing leapt out as a must-have (though the “tea time“ selection of fruit scones with jam, marmalade, and clotted cream struck me as rather cool). On my second visit (the first was only a late cocktail), I settled in on the banquette that runs the length of the room and ordered bruschetta ($6), a pasta in cream with smoked salmon and asparagus ($17.95), their signature chicken dish ($16), and a side of fries ($5). Knowing full well that chicken takes a long time to prepare and that my son has the patience of a moth, I asked not to stand on ceremony but to have each dish delivered when ready. The server acquiesced with a knowing nod, but 40 minutes later my plates arrived together without explanation. Consequently, the bruschetta was lukewarm and soggy (likely languishing under a heatlamp) and the pasta was just a whisper of what it could have been had it been served hot. In contrast, the chicken with parma ham, melted mozzarella, basil, and a sun-dried tomato hollandaise was superb. The fries may have been perfectly cooked and crispy, but they came without any dipping sauce (we had to ask our server, who wasn’t in the weeds, for ketchup). These days, if you serve fries and describe your menu as “up-market“, they should be accompanied by something, especially if they cost $5.

There were other avoidable service slips that caught my attention, too, causing me to wonder at the owners’ concern for their training. For example, when a server sees an empty drink it’s really in their best interest to ask if I’d like to have another one. It pads the bill, quenches my thirst, and causes me to be loose with my money. Further, if a noticeably pregnant woman asks if you can do a half order of pasta, don’t flatly refuse. You should at least go through the motions of asking the chef. Above all, communicate. If I’m going to have to wait, give me the courtesy of an update, and after the food arrives, check back to see how things are coming along. Service, especially during the first month, must be up to snuff to mask the other kinks that still need ironing out. As both owners are usually present and working the floor, I would expect better discipline. But then again, when was the last time you received great service in London?

But all things come in time and there are already major changes in the works. As often happens in the first month, the chef has already left. David Alsop (formerly of Aphrodites, Mad About Food, and the Tomato Fresh Food Café) split the day after my last visit. While it’s clear his abilities would not have been tested by Marmalade’s menu, the move affords the owners an opportunity to re-work and re-define just weeks out of the gate, and I‘m glad I have an excuse to return. Until then I hope Marmalade starts demanding more from itself. If they are ever going to become a destination spot instead of a good looking blur in the corner of a joggers eye, they must breathe new life into their menu and hammer down on service standards until they both trump a room that will otherwise stay lost in the mirror like a doomed Narcissus.

Edited by editor@waiterblog (log)

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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